A grandmother who is set to run a marathon in honour of fellow throat cancer survivors has opened up about the lack of awareness surrounding HPV-related cancers.
Victoria Workman, 57, told how she was grilled with personal questions surrounding her sex life and was told she may have caught the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) by sharing a kiss after being diagnosed with throat and tongue cancer.
It comes as the Throat Cancer Foundation has launched a new, nationwide campaign aimed at tackling the stigma of people living with HPV-related throat cancer.
No More HPV Stigma will focus on bringing together medical professionals and people who have lived with Human Papillomavirus (HPV) linked head and neck cancers to facilitate an open dialogue about changes that could make a big difference in the education surrounding HPV and the experiences of throat cancer patients.
Speaking of her own challenges, Victoria said: “I didn’t understand the HPV bit when I was told about my cancer, it was bad enough being told you have the “big C”. Then I understood. I was asked very personal questions.
“My replies were; no, I wasn’t sleeping around, no, I didn’t have many sexual partners before my husband, and yes we are humans who do what humans do.
“HPV doesn’t mean I’m promiscuous or have been. I was told you could contract HPV just by kissing.
“My HPV story is like many others – it’s just an awful case of bad luck. We must just get on with our recovery, educate and support others.”
The retired children’s work manager also revealed how a medic told her to gargle TCP when she sought help for her illness at the Accident and Emergency unit back in 2012.
Now, gran-of-two Victoria is training to run the Brighton Marathon in a bid to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of throat cancer.
Victoria, of Worthing, said: “Seven years ago I realised something was wrong, so my mum insisted I go to A&E to get it seen to.
“I kept choking and I had this awful cold which just wouldn’t shift and my mouth was in a lot of pain.
“There was a very nasty consultant there said I shouldn’t be going to A&E for something as minor as a sore throat.
“He told me to gargle some TCP and sent me on my way.
“Just after that I went for two scans and the other doctor said it was apparent that I had throat and mouth cancer.”
When she takes part in the gruelling 26.2 mile race on Sunday, April 19 this year, Victoria is planning on wearing her favourite pearl necklace, to remind her of the fact she’s beaten throat cancer.
She continued: “I wanted to do something that was really going to challenge me because I have no fear so that’s why I chose the marathon.
“Every time I go out running I suck in as much oxygen as I can through my mouth.
“I can feel the air on my scar tissues and it’s a reminder of how far I’ve come.”
The Throat Cancer Foundation is the only organisation to have provided nearly 12,000 information booklets to 300 cancer treatment centres for patients and medical professionals involved with the care of throat cancer patients throughout the UK on HPV and how medics should explain the virus to sufferers, loved ones and couples.
The Foundation’s aim is to tackle misconceptions about HPV-related throat cancers, after winning a nationwide campaign to have boys vaccinated against HPV in 2018.
Jamie Rae, Chief Executive of the Throat Cancer Foundation, commented: “Despite our relentless attempts to dispel the myths surrounding HPV, there is still a number of misconceptions surrounding the virus.
“There has been a large amount of media coverage in terms of busting the myths around HPV related cervical cancers of late, and we feel there should be the same level of awareness in relation to HPV-related throat cancer.”